Don't think that the memory of Newman's last trip to a supersectional doesn't linger in the back of Ray Sharp's mind.
The Newman coach remembers precisely the key stat from the Comets' 41-35 loss to North Shore Country Day at the 1A DeKalb Supersectional in March of 2012.
"15-for-50." Sharp said while watching the Comets warm up at Sauk Valley Community College on Monday. "It was hard accepting that game, knowing we were so close to a trip to state, and we just didn't perform like we wanted to."
The Comets went 15-for-50 from the field in the loss, including going 4-for-23 (17.4 percent) in the second half.
Two years later and one class up, the Comets get a chance at redemption. Newman (29-2) plays Bloomington Central Cathloic (24-6) at 8 p.m. today at the Convocation Center in DeKalb.
Point guard A.J. Sharp, the son of coach Sharp, went 0-for-9 as a sophomore in the 2012 game. He and classmate Micah Trancoso are the only two Comets still on the team that played in that game. Nate Terveer dressed, but did not play, and Nolan McGinn practiced with the team, but did not dress.
"I remember the look in the seniors' eyes after that game in the locker room," A.J. Sharp said. "They were shocked and upset. We were so close. It hurt, but we learned from it.
"Now that it is my last time through, I'll do everything I can to make sure that doesn't happen again."
Both Sharps have been a part of a renaissance in boys basketball at Newman over the last few years. Before the 2012 season, Newman had not advanced to a supersectional since 1980.
"I think we will be so much more prepared than last time," Ray Sharp said. "Even being the 8 p.m. game will help. Last time we were the 6 p.m. game and everything felt so rushed. This time it will be a lot closer to our usual gameday routine."
"We've been in a lot of big games since then," Trancoso said. "We've grown together as a team. This group has been together since grade school, and we've been dreaming about this the whole time."
Standing in the Comets' way will be the Saints, who pulled off the biggest surprise of the postseason so far by knocking off undefeated and top-ranked Rockridge in the sectional championship.
Bloomington Central Catholic beat the Rockets 56-55. Newman lost to Rockridge 62-50 at the Manny's Shootout on Jan. 18.
"I think we'd all admit that we were expecting to see Rockridge here," A.J. Sharp said. "That goes to show that anything can happen. We don't know as much about Bloomington, as we do about Rockridge. I am sure they are a good team, and that our coaches will get us ready for them."
The Saints have a powerful 1-2 punch in guards Nick Norton and Jake Reinhart.
Norton, who has bounced around during his high school days between Bloomington and a school in Missouri, was once committed to play at Creighton. The 5-foot, 11-inch guard is averaging 18 points per game and 6.0 assists.
He had a game-high 29 against Rockridge.
"We've played against Division I-type players before," Trancoso said. "Sometimes they've been in the post, sometimes on the wing. This time, it's a guard. We just have to play together on defense, and make it as hard for him as possible."
Norton's complement is Reinhart, who averages 16 per game, primarily as an outside shooter.
The winner advances to the state tournament and will play the winner of the Joliet Supersectional at 8:15 p.m. on Friday at the Peoria Civic Center.